Last week I spoke about divorce, and how clear the word is with regard to re-marriage. I don’t for one minute think that God withdrew His hand from me because I married a second time, but I certainly believe that I suffered the consequences of going my own way, preferring to trust in my desire, pandering to my insecurity instead of waiting for God’s plan to unfold in my life.
Our Father is a God of mercy, and He says that even if we take the wrong path, He will not lift His hand from us. But He gives the law in order to protect us – every action has a consequence. I have a number of precious friends, who are serving the Lord mightily, blessed of Him in second marriages, and I would never presume to judge any of them, or question the will of God in their lives.
Each person has to seek for and hear from God for His will for themselves. After all, was it not the Lord who sent Hosea to marry a prostitute, divorce her, marry her again? How many times did He forgive David his transgressions? The scriptures are full of what seem to be inconsistencies, because we fail to truly understand the heart of the Father – He does not want to see His children beaten and abused, oppressed and condemned, and He would never tell us to remain in bondage if there were not a good reason for us to do so. In the same way, I do believe that God does give second chances, He is well able to forgive mistakes knowing that we will treasure that opportunity as His gift. This was certainly Bishop Bernard’s take when he gave his permission for us to marry.
In later years, however, every time I read those scriptures I wondered if my disobedience to the injunction not to marry again, was one of the reasons I was where I was. I got married because that is what I wanted, and I was going to go ahead regardless. That was my disobedience. At the time it was so easy to put aside any reservation. After all the one who refused to marry us did not believe in demons or the miracles of healing, dismissing these words of scripture as being pertinent for “those days” alone. I remember asking how he could believe some parts of scripture adamantly, and yet so easily dismiss those sections that didn’t suit him, and receiving no relevant response.
For one well able to argue the hind leg off a donkey, it became easy for me to dismiss the grounds for his refusal to marry us as unfounded. After all, was he concerned about me being linked with an unbeliever? Did he really trust JW’s conversion? That wasn’t an issue for him. After all the man I was going to marry was a well-respected member of society, had attended the right school, a Christian school, he now came to church, of course he was a Christian. We are so fickle, and we make so light with Gods word, with His commandments. Lord, forgive us!
There are three main scriptures that get quoted whenever the topic of struggles within marriage are brought up. They are preached from pulpits across the globe, and I bought wholeheartedly into these teachings, dogma actually, applying them unequivocally to myself and others. I praise God that He undertook to enlighten me, through wise counsel and through His word.
The one I have come to hate hearing with a passion, because it is spoken so frequently, always out of context: “The Lord hates divorce”. I would like to “unpack”, as modern terminology would have it, the full context of this statement as found in Malachi 2, beginning at verse 13, ending at verse 16.
- And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying. So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with good will from your hands.
- Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
- But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
- ”For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.
Where here do you read that God forbids divorce? Hates divorce, absolutely He does, but more than that He hates the behaviour that leads to divorce. He calls it treachery. The Oxford definition of treachery is: violating faith or allegiance, betraying trust, perfidious, not to be relied on, deceptive, likely to fail or give way when used. OUCH!
He then goes further to say that they have chosen pagan wives, and cast away His daughters, profaning God’s Holy institution, marriage. That is why He hates divorce.
In Jeremiah 3v8 God Himself issues a certificate of divorce against His people, because He can no longer tolerate their aberrant behaviour. So God understands better than we tend to give Him credit for, that there is a time and a circumstance under which divorce is permissible and we need to be sensitive to this. Many precious sisters, and brothers, have been kept in cruel bondage by this piece of scripture, spoken without Godly understanding.
Another scripture frequently spoken when marriage problems are brought to Christian leadership is found in 1 Corinthians 7vv10-11. Again and again I hear it preached that a spouse may not leave the marriage, yet even Paul, in the name of Lord, agrees that at times it is impossible to remain in a marriage, and the wife is allowed to leave, provided she understands that she may not marry another. These are tough laws, but if we are to live in victory, we need to take heed of them.
Please don’t think that I am promoting divorce. I am not. I know the excruciating, searing agony of separating what God has joined together, and would not want that pain for an enemy let alone a friend. But I am saying to those who are living in abusive oppression, go seek your Father’s will, look at what is happening to your children, find a Godly counsellor filled with wisdom, and you may well find that He is telling you to go, leave Egypt, seek sanctuary.
Each one of us is responsible for working out our own salvation, and that with fear and trembling, (Phil 2;12). The Father’s heart is one of love and compassion. Ideally He wants you in a union that lasts until death, He wants what is best for us, His plan is perfect – go seek it.